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How Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey developed a more engaged workforce

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

Business Challenge

Since 1932, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey has offered quality health insurance products and services to New Jersey families and businesses. Horizon BCBSNJ succeeds based on their ability to deliver on their stated mission, known as, “Our Promise”:

  • To serve with excellence and dedication.
  • To provide peace of mind for those who depend on us.
  • To enrich the lives and health of our members and the communities we serve.

None of those things would be possible without a fully engaged workforce. Horizon BCBSNJ employees have historically scored well on engagement surveys. However, in 2013, the Newark-based company’s leadership sought a new recognition platform that would reward employees for their hard work and engagement in a transparent, enterprise-wide, manner. They wanted to replace the company’s manual recognition program with a more modern, automated approach that would appeal to today’s social media-savvy employees, and would allow them to create and post recognitions to each other, on a peer-to-peer level. And they wanted this system to enable the HR team to use the data generated by the program to link recognition to business results.

Step It Up Employee Recognition Programn

Horizon BCBSNJ rolled out its Step It Up Employee Recognition Program in 2013 to its 5,000-plus employees, connecting a workforce that was spread over, at that time, four locations throughout New Jersey with one online program. The program was met with immediate success, as over 90 percent of employees had enrolled in the program by the end of the year. Utilization was also immediate, particularly among the company’s leadership team, who continue to be the most active set of users on the platform three years later.

Horizon BCBSNJ credits the program’s success to the platform’s intuitiveness, with employees embracing the “newsfeed” feature that resembles the familiar Facebook feed. They also point to the ability of the program to help align employee and company values to desired behaviors and competencies. To help reinforce those values, employees can send and receive a “Core Competency” recognition that links to one of five desired competencies shared by all employees, and comes with Step It Up points that can be redeemed for a variety of items from the Achievers’ Marketplace. An advantage of the system is that it allows employees to recognize each other in a peer-to-peer fashion, versus only managers recognizing their reports in a top-down manner. Because of this, the majority of recognitions given and received are “Everyday Recognitions”– recognitions that do not have any monetary rewards attached. Managers, in turn, can “Boost” the recognitions as a further show of support for the employee’s behavior and to reinforce similar future behaviors, as well as award points.

Business Impact

The Step It Up Employee Recognition Program has been a tremendous success for Horizon BCBSNJ. Since launching the program in 2013, Horizon BCBSNJ has seen a 6 percent bump in its overall engagement scores, putting it 5 percentage points above its target, the IBM benchmark of 70 percent. In addition, Horizon BCBSNJ has seen a 14 percent improvement in engagement survey results related to recognition, which is particularly noteworthy when considering Horizon BCBSNJ went from below the IBM benchmark in this category to Best in Class status in just three years.

Currently, Horizon BCBSNJ has a 97 percent activation rate for its Step It Up Employee Recognition Program. In addition to everyday, peer-to-peer recognitions, Horizon BCBSNJ has found other ways to integrate the Step It Up Employee Recognition Program into various company-wide promotions and celebrations. For example, as part of the Step It Up Employee Recognition Program, employees:

  • Earn points as part of the company’s onboarding process (upon their enrollment in the program)
  • Have an opportunity to earn points as part of National Customer Service Week and National Compliance Week celebrations
  • Receive recognition for personal milestones (e.g., 10 years with the company, etc.)
  • Are recognized when they graduate certain professional development or training courses
  • Receive a recognition and points from the company’s Chairman and CEO as part of its annual Employee Thank You Day
  • Earn points as part of the company’s customer referral program
  • Earn points for participating in special initiatives

At Horizon BCBSNJ, the Step It Up Employee Recognition Program is much more than just a way for employees to thank each other for a job well done, or congratulate each other for significant achievements or milestones. It is a key factor in reinforcing employee participation in company initiatives, and an unquestionable driver of employee satisfaction. Perhaps more than anything else, it has proven to spread positivity within an already-engaged workforce.


Achievers Insight

6% increase in its overall engagement scores

14% improvement in engagement survey results related to recognition

97% activation rate for its Step It Up Employee Recognition Program